February 22, 2022 Ukraine-Russia crisis news

By Maureen Chowdhury, Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Jessie Yeung, Brad Lendon, Rob Picheta and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Updated 12:02 a.m. ET, February 23, 2022
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8:21 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

2 Ukrainian soldiers killed by shelling following weekend of ceasefire violations

From CNN’s Ivana Kottasova in Kyiv

A man holds the remains of a mortar which exploded in front of a building in the town of Schastia, Ukraine, on February 22.
A man holds the remains of a mortar which exploded in front of a building in the town of Schastia, Ukraine, on February 22. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 12 others injured in shelling by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine on Monday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday in a statement. 

The ministry said the Ukrainian Defense Forces recorded 84 ceasefire violations on Monday, 64 of which involved weapons prohibited by the 2015 Minsk Peace agreement. Most of the violence was recorded along the contact line in Luhansk.

In a separate statement on Tuesday, the ministry said it has so far recorded 152 attacks on civilian objects in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk over the past five days. 

It said one civilian was killed, two were injured and three more suffered concussions. 

In total, the ministry said 48 homes, four schools and educational institutions and 11 infrastructure facilities were damaged over the past five days. 

The shelling on Monday follows a weekend of violations: the Ukrainian Border Guards saidthat Shchastia, a crossing point for international humanitarian organizations at the Line of Contact, had been closed since 8 a.m. local time Sunday due to shelling. A UNHCR convoy that used the crossing point Friday said it had been caught in crossfire.

Some residents of Donetsk — which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists — reported heavy shelling early Sunday, ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement on Monday that Donetsk would be recognized as a Russian republic.  

The authorities in the breakaway republics persistently claim shelling by Ukrainian forces, who in turn regularly deny firing artillery across the front lines.

On Saturday, the EU condemned the "use of heavy weaponry and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas," saying they constituted a "clear violation of the Minsk agreements and international humanitarian law."

8:24 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Turkey's Erdogan considers Russia's decision "unacceptable"

From CNN's Isil Sariyuce in Istanbul and Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the Turkish Embassy in Dakar, Senegal on February 22.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at the Turkish Embassy in Dakar, Senegal on February 22. (Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize breakaway eastern Ukrainian territories, calling it “unacceptable.”

“Russia's decision to recognize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk Republics is contrary to the Minsk Agreements,” Erdogan told reporters during a trip to Senegal on Tuesday.  

“It was emphasized that this decision constitutes a clear violation of Ukraine's political unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.

“We consider this decision of Russia unacceptable,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader called on the parties to “respect common sense” and announced that Turkey is open to attending a summit proposal by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Erdogan added that Turkey is taking precautions in case of an escalation in hostility around the Black Sea.

“Since we are a Black Sea country, many precautions must be taken,” he said.

9:30 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

UK sanctions five Russian banks and predicts "pariah status" for Putin if he takes further action against Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to address the House of Commons on February 22 in London, England.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to address the House of Commons on February 22 in London, England. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled the "first tranche" of British sanctions on Russia, condemning Vladimir Putin's Ukraine aggression and saying Europe must "brace ourselves" for his next steps.

Johnson told lawmakers that people "will struggle to understand or to contemplate how, in the year 2022, a national leader might calmly and deliberately plot the destruction of a peaceful neighbor."

"Yet the evidence of his own words suggest that is exactly what President Putin is doing," he said.

The UK will sanction five Russian banks and three "very high net worth" individuals, Johnson said in Parliament.

"What (Putin) is doing is going to be a disaster for Russia," he said, predicting "pariah status" for the nation if it continues to further invade Ukraine.

"We will continue to seek a diplomatic solution until the last possible moment," Johnson said. "But we have to face the possibility that none of our messages has been heeded and that Putin is implacably determined to go further in subjugating and tormenting Ukraine."

Johnson's predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, told Parliament that Britain must defend "the right to democracy itself," adding: "What lies behind this is a wider, worldwide trend of authoritarian states trying to impose their way of thinking on others."

Earlier, Johnson's spokesperson supported Germany's move to halt certification of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline. "Europe has to wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons," the spokesperson told reporters, according to PA Media.

9:30 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

White House says it will impose significant sanctions on Russia "in the coming hours"

From CNN's Betsy Klein, John Harwood and Kevin Liptak

The White House will be imposing additional sanctions on Russia in the coming hours, a top Biden national security official said Tuesday, after Russia President Vladimir Putin recognized two pro-Moscow territories in Ukraine on Monday.

“The United States is going to have significant announcements of its own a bit later today, including sanctions that we will impose in response to what Russia did yesterday,” deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said during an appearance on MSNBC.

He also offered a little more detail on the additional sanctions announcements coming later Tuesday, suggesting that this could stop short of the severe sanctions the US has previewed, pending “further actions” by Russia.

“If Russia takes further actions, we will have further significant and severe consequences that we can impose via sanctions on Russia, in addition to the other elements of our response, including security assistance to the Ukrainians to help them defend themselves, and the force posture, troop movements that you have seen the United States take, in the coming days,” Finer said, adding that the US remains open to diplomacy.

For now, an entire array of sanctions against Russia is not expected because, "if you are going to deter [Putin] from taking Kyiv and the country — still a serious probability — you have to hold some threats of sanctions against that,” a senior administration official told CNN.

However, sanctions announced today are still expected to go further than the limited package, the White House announced on Monday.

A senior US official told CNN the cautious nature of Monday's package was due, in part, to the need to consult with Europeans about their willingness to go further, and to gauge whether Russia's actions Monday should trigger the full sanctions package the West has prepared in the event of an invasion.

US and European officials have been in intense discussions over the several past hours over how to proceed with additional sanctions against Russia for ordering troops into Ukraine, according to officials familiar with the matter.

The European Commission has also proposed sanctions to EU member states on Tuesday. The proposals will place sanctions on 27 persons and entities including political figures, propagandists, military personnel and financial entities who the EU deems to be linked to “illegal activities” in the regions. There will also be sanctions for the 351 Russian lawmakers who voted for the recognition and the 11 who proposed it – and the installation of Russian troops.

The Commission has placed a particular emphasis that would mirror sanctions taken in Crimea after the 2014 annexation by Moscow.

7:30 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Donbas evacuees face uncertainty in southern Russia

By CNN's Uliana Pavlova in Rostov, Russia

Nikolai Fyodorovich is one of the few men allowed to cross the border into Russia from the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine. His age -- he's 59 -- has spared him from the mobilization ordered by separatist leaders on Friday.

Nikolai Fyodorovich, who declined to give his full name, drove across the border at the Avilo-Uspenka crossing, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) from Donetsk's capital, on Sunday.

He and his wife were taking their daughter-in-law and 4-year-old granddaughter to stay with relatives in Rostov-on-Don, and had stopped to eat lunch at a cafeteria established near the crossing by Russian emergency services.

Last Friday, the leaders of the Russian-backed self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk republics -- which are not recognized by the West -- ordered the mass evacuation of women, children and the elderly, while barring men aged 18 to 55 from leaving.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees recognizing the independence of the separatist regions and ordered troops into them on what the Kremlin called a "peacekeeping" mission.

The move marked a sharp escalation in Russia-Ukraine tensions that have been rising for months.

Nikolai Fyodorovich said that he and his wife did not plan to stay in Russia and would return home to Donetsk the same day instead.

"Everyone decides for themselves whether they want to leave or not, but we survived 2014," he said, alluding to the de facto war that broke out in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine eight years ago between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

Read more below.

9:30 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

EU Commission puts forward proposed sanctions to member states

From CNN's Luke McGee

The European Commission and European External Action Service have presented proposal sanctions to EU member states following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize two Ukrainian regions as independent.

The proposals will place sanctions on 27 persons and entities including political figures, propagandists, military personnel and financial entities who the EU deems to be linked to “illegal activities” in the regions.

There will also be sanctions for the 351 Russian lawmakers who voted for the recognition and the 11 who proposed it – and the installation of Russian troops.

The Commission has placed a particular emphasis that would mirror sanctions taken in Crimea after the 2014 annexation by Moscow.

According to a senior EU diplomat who spoke with CNN on the condition of anonymity, most member states are on board but those with long-standing close ties to Moscow are making the bloc as a whole nervous that veto powers will be used.

The diplomat added that some member states are pushing for “incremental” implementation of sanctions, which is raising the question of whether they will duck putting in place the hardest parts of the proposed sanctions package.

9:29 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Germany halts approval of Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia over Ukraine

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses a joint press conference in Berlin.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses a joint press conference in Berlin. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / POOL / AFP)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has stopped the progression of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline following Moscow’s actions in eastern Ukraine.

Scholz announced a halt to the certification of the pipeline from Russia while speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin in Berlin on Tuesday.

The pipeline, which would have increased European reliance on energy from Russia, has been a major source of contention in Europe and the United States for years.

“With regard to the latest developments, we need to reassess the situation also with regard to Nord Stream 2. It sounds very technocratic but it is the necessary administrative step in order to stop certification of the pipeline," Scholz said.

Without undergoing the certification or approval process, the pipeline cannot start running. 

6:27 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Why Donbas is at the heart of the Ukraine crisis

From Tamara Qiblawi, Nathan Hodge, Ivana Kottasová and Eliza Mackintosh

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recognized two separatist territories in eastern Ukraine as independent states, ordering the deployment of Russian troops there following a major address Monday night.

For almost eight years, the breakaway regions have been the site of a low-intensity war between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces, which has left more than 14,000 people dead.

But Putin's decision to send forces into the area has raised fears about a broader war in Ukraine. Here's a look at how the conflict started.

What's the recent history in Donbas?

War broke out in 2014 after Russian-backed rebels seized government buildings in towns and cities across eastern Ukraine. Intense fighting left portions of the Donbas region's eastern Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the hands of Russian-backed separatists. Russia also annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that sparked global condemnation.

The separatist-controlled areas in Donbas became known as the Luhansk and the Donetsk People's Republics. The Ukrainian government in Kyiv asserts the two regions are in effect Russian-occupied. The self-declared republics are not recognized by any government, other than Russia. The Ukrainian government refuses to talk directly with either separatist republic.

The Minsk II agreement of 2015 led to a shaky ceasefire agreement, and the conflict settled into static warfare along the Line of Contact that separates the Ukrainian government and separatist-controlled areas. The Minsk Agreements (named after the capital of Belarus where they were concluded) ban heavy weapons near the Line of Contact.

How has Russia stoked the conflict?

The separatists in Donbas have had substantial backing from Moscow. Russia has long maintained that it has no soldiers on the ground there, but US, NATO and Ukrainian officials say the Russian government supplies the separatists, provides them with advisory support and intelligence, and embeds its own officers in their ranks.

Moscow has also distributed hundreds of thousands of Russian passports to people in Donbas in recent years.

Western officials and observers have accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to establish facts on the ground by naturalizing Ukrainians as Russian citizens, a de facto way of recognizing the breakaway states. It also gives him a reason to intervene in Ukraine.

Read our full explainer here:

6:29 a.m. ET, February 22, 2022

Taiwan's presidential spokeswoman "encouraged" by rejection of Russia's claims to Ukraine territory

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Taipei

Taiwan's presidential spokeswoman said it was "encouraging" that UN ambassadors were rejecting Russia's claims to Ukraine territory, saying she looked forward to the day "the world will equally reject" China's claims over Taiwan. 

"Encouraging to see UN ambassadors reject Russian imperial claims over Ukraine, we in Taiwan look forward to the day when the world will equally reject China’s imperial claims over our country," Kolas Yotaka tweeted from her verified Twitter account.

Earlier, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed "deep regret and condemnation" towards Russia after it ordered troops into two separatist pro-Moscow regions in eastern Ukraine. 

On Tuesday, China's Foreign Ministry rebuffed parallels between Ukraine and Taiwan, calling it an “irrefutable historical and legal fact” that there is "only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” referring back to its "One-China" principle.